iling your taxes and starting a new “shape up” program for summer both seem to hit about this time of the year. The first is not fun, but losing a few pounds doesn't have to be a tedious task or a period of denial and starvation. One lower-calorie meal is all you need to get back on track. That’s the thinking behind our latest all-recipe special edition: 300-CALORIE Main Dishes, hitting newsstands this month. Here are some of my favorites from the book for another week’s worth of fast, healthy, and tasty meals.
Monday: If you loved last week’s frittata, here’s another breakfast-for-dinner idea: Egg and Hash Brown Casserole. It’s like enjoying a stuffed omelet with sides of bacon and hash browns in one dish for less than 250 calories! The convenience factor is that you can make it up Sunday and let it stand overnight in the refrigerator. When you get home, mix up a final few ingredients, and pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes. Quick! You get all the work done in advance. Add some fresh fruit and you’re still under 300 calories.
Or if you’re going meatless on Mondays, try Eggs with Chickpeas, Spinach, and Tomato. It’s ready in 30 minutes for under 260 calories. Add some thin flatbread to round up to 300 calories. Rosemary and garlic brighten up store-bought marinara sauce. Here’s a great example of when buying the best or the freshest takes a dish from ho-hum to outstanding—fresh rosemary and pecorino-Romano cheese are worth the splurge.
Tuesday: Grab and Go. Slow-Cooked BBQ Fennel, Onion, and Pork Sandwiches is the perfect dinner solution for families on different eating schedules. You can cook the pork filling, and let it simmer on the stove top. Toss up the slaw and store it in the refrigerator, then let the family make up their own sandwich when they get home. If you have time while the pork is simmering, bake the Sweet Potato Fries that add less than 60 calories to your menu.
Wednesday: After a couple days of casual meals, get over the Wednesday hump with a special, easy meal. Seared Scallops with Haricots Verts says elegant but is still ready in under 30 minutes. Most people reach for the same types of familiar fish, such as salmon, but eating a variety will ensure that you get sufficient levels of omega-3s. The whole trick to the divine caramelized crust is giving the shellfish plenty of room in a hot pan. If you barely heat the pan before adding the oil and place the scallops in the pan…Silence. No sizzle. A hot pan is essential! It also helps prevent food from sticking. Be sure to add the oil when the pan is hot, just before adding the scallops. Otherwise it will smoke, which can leave you with burned-tasting oil. Patting the scallops dry before cooking also ensures a great sear. It’s an easy technique to master and so impressive for dinner guests.
Thursday: Craving some comfort food? Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis are one of our most popular quick meals that everyone will love. Plus, they're fun to serve because everyone gets their own little loaf. Diced white cheddar cheese makes this feel-good food seem more indulgent than it really is—fewer than 300 calories per serving. We prefer fresh over dry breadcrumbs—they’re easy because most people have leftover bread or a baguette around. Place pieces of torn bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times until fine crumbs form. Make extra and freeze so you’ll have some on hand for other recipes. Add Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette to complete the menu. You can make the dressing and prep the greens, onions, and carrots while the meat loaves are in the over.
Friday: If your willpower is waning by Friday and stopping by your local pizza joint sounds a lot easier than cooking after a long week, BBQ Chicken Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella and Pickled Jalapenos delivers! We’re big fans of the refrigerated pizza dough in the bakery section of the supermarket. In the roster of shortcut ingredients, a ball of fresh pizza dough is an all-star. A little advice: If the dough starts retracting and fighting you as you shape it, cover it and walk away; let it relax for 5 to 10 minutes, and it’ll be more cooperative when you come back to it.
To keep sodium levels in check, a homemade spice mixture is used to season the chicken also used in the homemade pizza sauce. Milky fresh mozzarella tames the bite of tangy peppers. One slice is a serving but it’s a hearty piece piled high with toppings and less than 300 calories.
Pick up a copy of Cooking Light’s newest special edition: 300-Calorie Main Dishes for more fast, tasty, and healthy weeknight meal ideas. The choices are amazing, and you won’t feel like you’re depriving yourself or have to cook a separate dinner for the rest of your family.
Monday: Egg and Hash Brown CasseroleTuesday: Slow-Cooked BBQ Fennel, Onion, and Pork Sandwiches with Sweet Potato FriesWednesday: Seared Scallops with Haricots VertsThursday: Cheesy Meat Loaf Minis with Salad with Balsamic VinaigretteFriday: BBQ Chicken Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella and Pickled Jalapenos
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